Tag Archives: Easter

A Declaration of Resurrection

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declarationLife is full of declarations. Some come in the form of political manifestos, others as works of art, and the best as manifestations of love. In France this is the time of year when we have to make our tax declarations!

However, as Easter celebrations come amongst us, we must remember that greatest of declarations:

The Declaration of Resurrection!

Paul sums it up well at the beginning of his letter to the Romans:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle and set apart for the gospel of God – the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his human nature was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was declared with power to be the Son of God, by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.” Romans 1:1-5

Paul was so impacted by this declaration of life that he had encountered on the Damascus road that he also made it one of the major elements of his Gospel:

“For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve.  After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.” 1 Corinthians 15:3-8

Easter celebrates the scriptural and historical fact that Jesus “died for our sins…was buried…was raised.” Paul builds up to the glorious resurrection by emphasising his physical appearing to the Apostles – remember the Emmaus road and the upper room, and to over five hundred people! Just think about that for a moment. Some people seem to have a very abstract, virtual idea of Christ’s resurrection, but there was nothing virtual or metaphorical about five hundred eye witnesses!

Believing in the physical resurrection of Christ is so important:

“And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” 1 Corinthians 15:14

I do not want to have a” useless” ministry. I want it to be utterly “useful”, totally filled with the faith dynamic of Christ’s resurrection. More than just believing, I want to experience Christ in this risen life and make it my life’s goal:

“I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.” Philippians 3:10-11

The powers of the age to come began to break into this world as Christ broke free from the grave.resurrection_kone

Vitality, health, peace and happiness can be ours as we allow His new life in us to overcome the sin and pain inherited from the clay of Adam.

“And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven.” 1 Corinthians 15:49

Who is your icon? I want to be an “eikon”, a living “likeness” of the heavenly man!

Own your own resurrection experience this Easter! – it may bring you physical healing and well-being as the Holy Spirit infuses new life into old bones.

“And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.” Romans 8:11

The missionary message is based on a declaration of resurrection.

New Dawn

In the famous passage of Matthew 28:1-20, we see the two Marys going to look at a tomb. The tomb seems to be the final destination for us all…but there is more. Whatever the disappointments of life there is always a new “dawn”. Mission, sharing the Gospel message, must bring this new dawn, this new beginning to people’s lives.

Supernatural Intervention

Hard ground quakes open and heavy obstacles are removed. Light invades darkness and angels displace demons.

New Perspective

“Do not be afraid, for I know that you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He is not here; he has risen, just as he said.” Matthew 28:5-6

Move from fear to faith. in many cultures Jesus is always portrayed as stuck – almost forever, weak, pale and broken on a cross, while shining over Him is His radiant all-powerful, Mum! In some churches there are so many stations of the cross, and crucified Christs that I don’t actually meet the real thing! “He is not here!” He is no longer in the tomb or on the cross. Stop lamenting and making your life an eternal good Friday! There is obviously a place for the cross – a terrible place where Jesus shed His blood and paid the price for my sin and the sins of the world…but He has moved on into glorious resurrection life. He still bears the scars, but they are transfigured trophies of victory.

Find Him in your Future

“Then go quickly and tell his disciples: ‘He has risen from the dead and is going ahead of you into Galilee. There you will see him.’ Now I have told you.” Matthew 28:7

If the cross frees us from our past, the risen life of Christ awaits us in future opportunity and vision. He has gone ahead of you preparing a place of blessing, mission, anointing, Word and service. Move on to join him. Where is He waiting for you?

Get Sent – Tell and Teach

“Then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid. Go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee; there they will see me…Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” Matthew 28: 7 &19-20

Mission MandateA resurrection vision spurred on the Marys and the men to a missionary mandate. May this Easter give you your own missionary mandate as you contemplate the risen Christ, and are empowered afresh.

The Lying Declaration

I would have loved to do without this last section. Unfortunately, in this world, a declaration of resurrection will always be challenged and opposed by the devil’s declaration.

The guards in the story could have had the marvelous privilege of being the first witnesses of resurrection to the world. They could have become apostles…but they chose to be liars!

“While the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and reported to the chief priests everything that had happened. When the chief priests had met with the elders and devised a plan, they gave the soldiers a large sum of money, telling them, “You are to say, ‘His disciples came during the night and stole him away while we were asleep.’ If this report gets to the governor, we will satisfy him and keep you out of trouble.” So the soldiers took the money and did as they were instructed. And this story has been widely circulated among the Jews to this very day.” Matthew 28:11-15

The power of money, manipulation and self-preservation overcame the testimony of life. So often the same evil spirits are at work today, trying to “steal away” the Gospel power in our own personal lives and also in the world. This “anti resurrection” lie is still alive and well today and widely circulated as a morbid anti-life mandate. Many “guards” still sign up to proclaim it, obeying the “instructions” of this world’s spirit, and keeping themselves out of the “trouble” that a strong resurrection declaration brings.

Who will you be this Easter? A guard, a Mary or a disciple?

Declare the truth – declare the resurrection. He is Risen! – He is Risen indeed!

Happy Easter!

 

 

 

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Easter every day…

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“I wish it could be Christmas Easter everyday…”

Kids – up to the age of 99, it seems! – enjoy an Easter egg hunt. Even if it only lasts a few minutes, the competitive excitement of Chocolate easter egg finding colourfully wrapped chocolate goodies that someone has thoughtfully hidden round the house or in the garden (or even in the snow drifts this year…) appeals to us all. Especially if we get more eggs than anyone else.

It’s all good fun, and we will no doubt enjoy the glut of chocolate for the next week. But that was Easter Sunday; you won’t find anyone out in their gardens looking for hidden chocolates now. (Well, you might in our garden as one chocolate bunny refused to be found and is still hiding somewhere…) We only go out looking because we know there is something there.

Easter isn’t really about chocolate eggs, we all know that too. It’s a reminder of that day in history almost 2,000 years ago when Jesus Christ came back to life –not the sort of thing that happens every day. Easter is that particular time in the Christian calendar that allows us to focus unreservedly on the real historical events that are the foundation for our faith. Jesus did live, did die outside Jerusalem executed by the Romans as a criminal and did come back to life three days later. It’s not some religious doctrine, super-spiritual theological theory or made-up fairy tale – all this really happened!

resurrection.lifeAnd it’s good to remind ourselves of this. Faith can become a very ethereal thing, a bit woolly at times, and we can forget how it all started. We can get bogged down in our own thoughts and hopes and dreams and issues… and after a while we find ourselves living a faith that is more to do with what we think or what we are capable of than anything else.

But it isn’t. Christian faith is not a self-help programme under a thin veneer of religiosity. Far from it! Christian faith is the unashamed recognition of our own human inadequacy, and the celebration of God’s solution for us in Jesus’ death and resurrection.

There may be many a day when you think “I’m just not up to scratch”, “A bit more prayer, a bit more Bible reading, and I reckon I’ll be doing OK”, or even “I can’t do this by myself”. Of course you’re not up to scratch, of course you’re not there yet, of course you can’t do it by yourself – you’re not supposed to! That would be a poor imitation of Christian faith, a model for living that tries to make us experience the fruit of Christian life, but without Christ.

On the cross, Jesus carried all of our frailty, our accidental failings, our deliberate sin – everything that in any way is not what we should be. His death takes it all and when God looks on us now, he sees us without any of this. If you are forgiven in Christ, you need never again worry about what God thinks of you, for you are perfect in his sight. Amazing. Totally amazing.forgiven_0810

But there is more. Jesus’ resurrection is the demonstration of God’s power over that junk. Jesus took the lot, but it had no hold on him. When Jesus came back to life, he left it all behind. Instead, he offers us the opportunity to share in the power of his resurrection, to experience that same inner well of life that brought him back from the dead.

Easter is the time when we remember that event and celebrate the power of God over sin, Satan and death. All this really happened, but please don’t treat it as only history. It is God’s power for you, today. It really can be Easter every day.

Guest post from Neil Rees       

http://eatingwithsinners.wordpress.com/about/

neil_rees4Neil lived in Spain from 1985 till 2012, church planting, leading teams and then in his role as International Director for World Horizons. He moved back to the UK in September 2012 to take on the position of minister at CLM church, Ormskirk.
Picture Credit “Forgiven” Wordtrace© John Jumbi

From weeping to leaping..(1)

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A journey to HebronHebron_Basketball_Tower

As we celebrate the bitter-sweet journey from Good Friday’s crucifixion to Easter Sunday’s resurrection we might also think of another journey of a nation to Hebron. Hebron was just a piece of land, but it also represents “an inheritance” , an experience of the divine promises.

Easter has also brought its season of difficult news from around the world. I cannot help being gripped by the tragedy that is being worked out in Central African Republic at the moment. Friends are being molested and persecuted and unburied bodies have littered the streets like refuse. It is not the full story of this beautiful country which has so much potential.

I think of happier days pioneering a mission movement amongst the Pygmy tribes of this nation –  a gentle, artistic people in tune with earth and sky, and intimately acquainted with the God who sends his holy breeze to rustle the leaves of the trees and to carry colourful butterflies in flight. They are discovering this same God of Easter, who, beyond his historic Jewish incarnation, took on Pygmy flesh. No chocolate bunnies for them, only the naked wild worship in dance and song which encapsulates their forest offerings. I shared in their story for a few precious moments, becoming one with them in a  dance offering around a huge, life inspiring fire which sent sparks, like prayers, into the star filled African nights.

People are now dying in Central Africa…and Syria…etc

What do we die from?

I’m glad that although many die, many also live and find even greater life as the Gospel is brought to them by faithful servants of Christ. Central Africa possesses such servants in abundance. The Gospel was brought  for the first time to the Pygmies by the faithful African apostles of Nations en Marche. They were not part of the tribe that lives long on the couch of comfort in front of screens and illusions, stretching out the years in selfish survival. They were the warriors of the moment, living a precious life each day with the coming and going of light and birdsong; a people of cosmic community, investing their lives for the greater good of the tribe. Fires are being lit in heaven, and the little igloo leaf houses are putting the pearly gates to shame.

oubanguiI would like to think that the anonymous sacrifices in Central Africa and beyond have some meaning and value. My prayer is that all those associated with the “Hebron tribes” principle, those committed to investing their lives into the greater good of seeing indigenous mission movements born and nurtured, will be somehow encouraged and inspired. “Death is at work in us” cried the apostle Paul, “but life is at work in you.”

The following is my own inadequate homage to the Central African people who have found a greater life in a greater forest.

I am part of a mission movement which speaks about the “Hebron principle”. Our family principles handbook says the following about it. 

“In Chronicles the different tribes came together to make David King over all Israel. We aspire to see many people and ministries come together in their diversity and uniqueness to make Jesus king over all nations. We are called to start or facilitate new indigenous movements of mission.”

 I believe that we are at a kairos moment of opportunity to strengthen this value in the Body of Christ today.

So, over these next two articles (today and Easter Monday), we will take a closer look at this place called Hebron.

A place of Vision and Worshipvision

The LORD said to Abram after Lot had parted from him, “Lift up your eyes from where you are and look north and south, east and west.  All the land that you see I will give to you and your offspring forever.  I will make your offspring like the dust of the earth, so that if anyone could count the dust, then your offspring could be counted. Go, walk through the length and breadth of the land, for I am giving it to you….So Abram moved his tents and went to live near the great trees of Mamre at Hebron, where he built an altar to the LORD.”    Genesis 13:14-18

The Lord had a word for Abraham at a painful time of division and separation in his family. He told him not to focus on the problem but to lift up his eyes and receive fresh vision. We may be suffering our own various difficult partings at this time, and no work is ever immune from division. Never be dominated or discouraged through division but hear the Lord speak afresh to bring a new perspective. “Lift up your eyes!”

Having found the courage to move on, he also found a fresh impetus to worship, as his shepherd’s hands placed stone upon stone to build an altar to the Lord. Allow the Lord to bring together all the strands of your personality, carefully meshed with a new sensitivity and hunger for the Holy Spirit, in order to build your own special place of intimacy. Hebron was renowned for the goodness of its stones. An old Jewish saying goes:

“You have no stones in all the land of Israel harder than at Hebron; hence they buried the dead there.”

 Build the altar with field stones.

A place of Weeping and Sacrifice

Sarah lived to be a hundred and twenty-seven years old. She died at Kiriath Arba (that is, Hebron) in the land of Canaan, and Abraham went to mourn for Sarah and to weep over her. Then Abraham rose from beside his dead wife and spoke to the Hittites. He said, “I am an alien and a stranger among you. Sell me some property for a burial site here so I can bury my dead.”     Genesis 23:1-4

tears_in_heavenAbraham’s title-deed for his first patch of promise land was stained with tears. The promise bearer died at the threshold of the land of promise. Do not be surprised if the road to your dream, your inheritance, leads you to an eve of weeping. Over the last years my own heart has been inwardly weeping as I have felt that a context or mechanism for mission building in the Church has been strangely absent. Like Sarah, a movement which once gave life, may find itself growing old. However, death is also the prelude to new life. Perhaps the moments of death we experience, our personal “Good Fridays”, may well give us fresh access to our own tear-stained title deeds of our dreams.

A place of Warfare and Inheritance

“Now then, just as the LORD promised, he has kept me alive for forty-five years since the time he said this to Moses, while Israel moved about in the desert. So here I am today, eighty-five years old!  I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; I’m just as vigorous to go out to battle now as I was then.  Now give me this hill country that the LORD promised me that day. You yourself heard then that the Anakites were there and their cities were large and fortified, but, the LORD helping me, I will drive them out just as he said.” Then Joshua blessed Caleb son of Jephunneh and gave him Hebron as his inheritance. So Hebron has belonged to Caleb son of Jephunneh the Kenizzite ever since, because he followed the LORD, the God of Israel, wholeheartedly. (Hebron used to be called Kiriath Arba after Arba, who was the greatest man among the Anakites.)…Then the land had rest from war.  Joshua 14:10-14

Are you still up for it? How’s your spiritual vigor? Are you still dreaming of possessing your mountain, your “hill country,” your Hebron?

Caleb could have grown bitter during the long waiting and wandering in the desert. He could have sunk into self-pity, blaming circumstances and others who had negated his faith through their unbelief and fear. Unbelief and fear in myself and others drives me bonkers! I don’t think God is too pleased either! However, there is a place beyond frustration. It is a place that hangs on and believes in the promise no matter what. Caleb found that place and became better rather than bitter. He found a place of wholehearted devotion to God which transcended his circumstances.

After forty-five years of dreaming about crushing Anakite heads, he was finally unleashed to take his inheritance. I wouldn’t have wanted to be the first man in his way! Those who have learnt to wait are also the most aggressive in the battle for their promise land…

(to be continued…)

You can find another Easter article at Neil Rees’ Eating with Sinners blog